With Independence Day just around the corner, I have spent some time reflecting on the many freedoms we have as Americans. The Declaration of Independence states that we are “endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Despite our nation’s imperfections, I am thankful to live in the United States of America.
What a blessing that we live in a nation that protects our right to pursue happiness. Most people, deep down inside, want to be happy. This is really why so many of us try to secure good jobs, desire to live in comfortable houses, and seek out companionship. But even in a country that maintains our right to pursue happiness, actually obtaining it can be a struggle.
The American people, alongside many other nations around the world, are currently facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we continue to fight daily for our physical and mental health, I think a lot of people have a renewed desire to simply be happy. The problem for many Americans is this desire ends up leading us into a pursuit of self. Scroll through social media for just a few minutes today and you’ll see endless examples of self-interest, self-pleasure, and self-promotion.
This pursuit of self may feel satisfying in the moment, and it may even bring some version of happiness, but it is only going to lead to a deeper feeling of emptiness down the road. As free as we are in America to choose to live for ourselves, we were created to live differently. It’s time that American Christians use their freedom to live as God intended — dependent on him.
The Bible talks about happiness numerous times, but it defines it in an altogether different way from our culture. When we read the word “happiness” in the Bible, it is speaking of something that is self-contained. In other words, you can experience happiness regardless of your circumstances. The happiness the Bible advocates does not come from what you have. It isn’t dependent on whether things are going well. It comes from who you know. And the “who” I am referring to is the Lord himself.
Biblical happiness actually goes deeper than simply who we know, but it comes from who we depend on. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (ESV). When we depend on God, we can have confidence that he will guide us down the right path for our lives. Depending on God gives us stability and purpose, and it’s through this dependency that we will have lasting happiness.
Many of our founders believed in a God who guides the affairs of mankind. We often forget that in declaring independence from an earthly power, they made a direct declaration of dependence upon God Almighty. The closing words of the Declaration of Independence state, “...with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
In a nation that allows us to pursue happiness however we see fit, I urge you to pursue it through the avenue of dependency. When we depend on God and look to the Bible for guidance, an unexplainable joy rises up within us. We no longer have to ride the emotional rollercoaster of the world around us. We can face challenging situations with a contentment that only comes from Christ.
On this Fourth of July, as you’re celebrating the independence of our nation with your loved ones, I hope you will remember that we have the opportunity to choose how we pursue happiness. I pray that you choose to pursue a lasting joy. God is the sole source of a happiness that no person or government could ever provide.
Greg Laurie is the pastor and founder of the Harvest churches in California and Hawaii and of Harvest Crusades. He is an evangelist, best-selling author and movie producer. His new book “Billy Graham: The Man I Knew” (Salem Books), released April 13.